- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

Before earning thespian infamy as the scenery-chewing star of the popular 1950s pirate pic "Treasure Island" and its sequel, "Long John Silver" (a feat repeated in "Blackbeard, the Pirate"), Robert Newton gave a supremely chilling, surprisingly restrained performance as amoral London shrink Dr. Clive Riordan in the noirish 1949 suspense winner The Hidden Room. It's our

Video pick of the week

In "The Hidden Room" new from Sinister Cinema ($16.95 VHS only, www.sinistercinema.com) Mr. Newton as Riordan tires of the extramarital liaisons of trophy wife Storm (a stunning Sally Gray). He makes up his cunningly demented mind to kill her latest lover, jaunty American Bill Kronin (Phil Brown), and commit the perfect crime into the bargain. Riordan kidnaps the bemused Yank and locks him in a nearby abandoned building while he lovingly prepares the special acid bath that will ultimately eradicate Bill's remains and all evidence of the murder.

When not playing with his elaborate electric train set, ignoring wife Storm and fending off snoopy Scotland Yard Superintendent Finsbury (Naunton Wayne), who is reportedly looking into the disappearance of the Riordans' pet poodle, our antihero pays calmly sadistic visits to his outwardly cheerful captive. Kronin is now sporting an increasingly lengthy beard as his internment stretches from days to weeks to months. The tension continues to build until the film reaches a satisfyingly ironic climax.

Originally titled "Obsession" and scripted by Alec Coppel from his novel "A Man About a Dog," "The Hidden Room" emerges as a nearly flawless, proto-Hitchcockian thriller that, for a 1949 film, boasts a subtly cynical, distinctly modern tone. (We could easily envision a major Hollywood remake with, say, Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Al Pacino as the cop.) In the meantime, suspense fans won't want to miss this unsung gem.

The 'A' list

A trio of family-friendly comedies will be heading to home video in time for the holiday season. Warner Home Video launches the recent, fast-fading Eddie Murphy space caper The Adventures of Pluto Nash ($26.98 DVD/$22.98 VHS), with Randy Quaid and Rosario Dawson. MGM Home Entertainment unleashes The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course ($26.98 Special Edition DVD/$22.98 VHS), starring Aussie wild man Steve Irwin (sort of a poor wild man's Paul Hogan).

Paramount Home Video goes the animation route with the TV-based Hey Arnold! The Movie ($19.95 DVD/$14.95 VHS), featuring the vocal talents of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Lloyd and Paul Sorvino.

Collector's corner

Along with "House of Games," James Foley's 1992 Glengarry Glen Ross, starring charismatic actors Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris and Jack Lemmon as bottom-feeding sharks in the cutthroat real-estate trade, rates as one of filmdom's top David Mamet adaptations. Artisan Entertainment celebrates the movie's 10th anniversary with a gala special edition DVD packed with extras. Beyond full-screen and widescreen viewing options, the double-disc set includes audio commentary by director Foley, a tribute to late co-star Lemmon, new cast interviews and the documentary "A.B.C. (Always Be Closing)," a penetrating look at real- and reel-life real-estate salespeople. The set, available now, is tagged at $26.98.

Universal, meanwhile, chips in with Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy ($39.95 per 3-DVD set), including more than 10 hours of bonus features. An unadorned set will also be available on VHS ($24.95).

The joy of sets

And speaking of sets, multi-DVD collections continue to proliferate with an eye toward the gift-giving season. For anime fans, U.S. Manga Corps assembles the 3-DVD Legend of Himiko: Complete Series ($89.98), containing the entire chronicle of Earth girl Himiko's battle with dark forces of every stripe in an extras-crammed package. Bandai Entertainment presents Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Collector's Box 1 ($49.98), offering 12 episodes of the long-running animated sci-fi series.

A&E Home Video, meanwhile, obliges couchside Anglophiles with several new collections, leading with The Complete 'Upstairs Downstairs' DVD Megaset ($299.95), a 20-disc collection containing all 67 episodes plus the rarely seen 25th anniversary retrospective. The label also introduces the eight-disc The Complete Jeeves & Wooster Megaset ($129.95) and the five-disc documentary series The Complete History of Britain ($99.95), originally aired on The History Channel.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Trying to find a 1970s horror called "Count Yorga." Is it available on video?

T. Vale, via e-mail

Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES, www.moviesunlimited.com) carries 1970's Count Yorga, Vampire ($12.74 DVD/$8.99 VHS) and the 1971 sequel, The Return of Count Yorga ($11.69 VHS only), both on the MGM label.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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